Page 14, 8th August 2008

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s t Radegund (c 518587) was the daughter of a king

in Thuringia. in the German heartland. This did not prove to be any kind of advantage . First,.her father was murdered by her uncle. Then, in 531, a Frankish king, Clothaire, attacked. and carried off Radegund with the rest of the spoils to Athies, some 100 miles north of Paris.

Whether Radegund had been a Christian when captured is not clear; by the age of 18, though, she was celebrated not merely for her beauty and goodness, but also for her devotion.

Clearly something about her impressed Clothaire, for he summoned her to his court at Vitry to be his wife. More accurately, he summoned her to be one of his wives. Clothaire was a brute.

Radegund bore her lot with patience. and found solace in her work for the poor, sick and outcast. When she founded a hospital for lepers, a kind friend warned her that no one would want to kiss her. "If you don't want to kiss me. I really don't mind at all." came the withering reply.

Clothaire was soon complaining that he had married a nun rather than a queen. For six years Radegund put up with his infidelities. and bore his taunts on her childlessness. Only when Clothaire murdered her beloved brother did she retire from court.

At Noyon, she asked the bishop, St Medard, to accept her as a nun. Medard not surprisingly hesitated, for Clothaire was not a man to offend. Eventually Radegund appeared before him in a nun's habit. "If you will not consecrate me you fear man more than God," she told him, "and He will ask you an account of my soul." Medard wisely made her a deaconess.

Radegund founded a monastery at Poitiers, and appointed a friend, Agnes. to be its first abbess. submitting to her direction. Meanwhile St Germanus of Paris had succeeded in persuading Clothaire to leave Radegund alone.

Indeed. Clothaire was so impressed that he sent a message to Radegund begging for forgiveness. Better still, he supported her monastery. His new-found delicacy, however, would not prevent him from burning alive in a cottage his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Radegund's abbey at Poitiers became one of the first double monasteries, for men and women, in the West; the sexes. of course. were rigorously separated. Some of the inmates, reports Gregory of Tours, expressing feverish excitement about titles, "were even of royal blood". An accomplished Latinist, Radegund made the abbey a centre of learning.

"Human eloquence," declared her friend Bishop Venantius Fortunatus. "has in its astonishment but little power to show in what piety. self-denial, charity, sweetness. humility, uprighmess, faith and fervour Radegund lived."

As for Clothaire, he reunited the Frankish kingdoms.




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